Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called for a national day of mourning to honour Queen Elizabeth next Thursday September 22nd. But not everyone is happy about it. For many small businesses, essential workers and parents, this decision presents logistical challenges.
It also comes at a significant cost. SBS reports that “some economists – including Stephen Koukoulas – predict the day of mourning will cost the Australian economy around $1.5 billion dollars. And he says that doesn’t include the associated penalty payments.”
Business owners are left with the choice of closing their doors or staying open and paying higher wages to employees. Some business owners are calling for the government to acknowledge the cost of public holidays. Some have suggested it’s time for regulations around public holidays to be overhauled; with options such as giving a greater choice to employees on which public holidays they take part in. That way, for example, a café could open with staff who aren’t partaking in the public holiday, paying them at the usual rate so they don’t lose revenue.
Numerous essential workers are also presented with an issue, whether it’s being forced to make alternative childcare arrangements so they can show up at work, or managing scheduling issues. Take, for instance, the issue of moving the date of non-essential surgeries that are planned for next Thursday. Some patients have been on long waitlists and are tightly scheduled, meaning that it’s not necessarily a simple matter of pushing their procedure back by one day. This disruption comes at an already difficult time for patients who have often had procedures delayed as a result of the COVID pandemic. Healthcare workers have been tasked with managing these logistics with little support from government.
The good news
There are of course some businesses who will benefit from next Thursday’s public holiday. Many in the local tourism sector have reported a large influx of bookings after the announcement.
The economic ramifications aren’t expected to be long-term either. KPMG Senior economist Sarah Hunter told ABC news “I think we can expect to see a little bit of an impact on the economy, but it’ll be very short lived.”
The snap public holiday next week will afford many Australians the opportunity to reflect on the 70+ years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Many people will also be wondering if this means change is around the corner, as Prime Minister Albanese is a supporter of Australia becoming a republic (as is over 50% of the Australian population).
However, when asked about the issue on Sunday, Albanese told ABC’s Insiders program that now was “not a time to talk about our system of government.” That’s a tactful comment for the sensitivity of this particular moment, but the truth is that Queen Elizabeth’s death marks the end of a very long era and so it’s only natural that we will wonder, will this re-ignite the republic conversation?